By winning best picture at the BAFTA Awards, "Slumdog Millionaire" just became the second film, after "American Beauty," to sweep the top prizes from all of these awards: Golden Globes, National Board of Review, Critics Choice and the four guilds — producers, directors, writers and actors (ensemble award at SAG).
Last year "No Country for Old Men" won all of those prizes except BAFTA and the Golden Globe — "Atonement" claimed both of those best-picture prizes. In 2005, "Brokeback Mountain" nearly pulled off such a sweep, but National Board of Review went for "Good Night, and Good Luck," and "Crash" won best ensemble acting at SAG.
This impressive derby trot by "Slumdog Millionaire" does not come close to matching the greatest sweep ever in the history of showbiz awards — "Schindler's List" (1993). Back then, the SAG ensemble award and Critics Choice Awards didn't exist, but it swept up all best-picture prizes from every other major Hollywood awards group. It even pulled off a rare sweep of the critics trifecta: New York Film Critics Circle, Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. and National Society of Film Critics. All three disagreed this year. The Angelenos picked "Wall-E," New Yorkers got "Milk" and the national society danced off with "Waltz With Bashir." Curiously, all three critics' awards went their own way in 1999 when "American Beauty" paved the way for "Slumdog Millionaire's" romp at other top awards this year.
Ever since BAFTA moved up its awards calendar in 2000 so that its ceremony would precede the Oscar show — and therefore, presumably, influence it — the two awards agreed only twice on best picture: "Gladiator" (2000) and "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" (2003).
However, they've overlapped much more frequently in the acting races: 18 of the past 32 performance awards. Most impressive is that they agreed completely over the past two years. What about now?
Three of the four stars hailed as the Oscar front-runners by most award gurus came through at BAFTA: Kate Winslet ("The Reader"), Heath Ledger ("The Dark Knight") and Penélope Cruz ("Vicky Cristina Barcelona").
However, Sean Penn ("Milk") lost to Mickey Rourke ("The Wrestler"). Both have won top awards during the derby so far: Penn bagged SAG, Rourke claimed the Golden Globe. Both have momentum and mega-buzz. By boosting "The Wrestler" star, this BAFTA victory turns the Oscar best-actor slugfest into a real heavyweight bout.
Beware: Over the past eight years, BAFTA has correctly predicted Oscar's best-actor champs only four times — but they were the past four champs. Four out of five nominees agree in both categories this year. Dev Patel ("Slumdog Millionaire") bumped Oscar nominee Richard Jenkins ("The Visitor") at BAFTA.
Only three of the five contenders for best actress concur, which may be significant. The Babe Factor has been a major influence on Oscar winners in recent years. Only two woman past the age of 50 won either lead or supporting over the past decade and a half (Helen Mirren, Judi Dench). One of the Oscar babes, Anne Hathaway ("Rachel Getting Married"), wasn't nommed at BAFTA and may pose a threat to Kate Winslet on Feb. 22.
Here is the L.A. Times' full report on who won the BAFTA Awards for film.
Photos: Fox Searchlight, DreamWorks